INTEL Processor Strategies

Posted July 1997

By now you’ve all seen the fancy Intel Pentium commercials on TV, and you’re being bombarded with a bewildering array of “Pentium” CPU models and names. What follows is one layman’s interpretation of the various models and names being used. And, we could be wrong. So we apologize in advance to those of you who may have a more refined insight into this maze than we do.


This has been THE STANDARD processor for Intel for the last 3 years. We introduced our first Pentium model in December ’96, and eventually upgraded most of our customers’ 486 based Accounting/UNIX systems to this model. It quadrupled the performance of the earlier 486 technology. We also launched a very popular line of PC/Workstations based on the Pentium, at 90, 120 and now, 200 megahertz.

Incidentally, clock speed (megahertz) refers to how fast the CPU engine is being revved, not how powerful the engine is. Kinda like a four cylinder car at 3000 RPM versus a V-8 at 3000 RPM.


Last summer, Intel introduced the first generational enhancement to the Pentium and called it the Pentium PRO (also widely thought of as the “686”). I guess they couldn’t come up with a reasonable nomenclature representing “six”, so they just tacked on “PRO”. Clock speeds ranging from 150 to 200 megahertz, in addition to the inherent functions of this new generation of CPU allow it to triple the performance of the standard Pentium technology. And in our UNIX servers, it’s quite a performance boost.

However, the PC software industry for the most part is unable to take full advantage of the new features of the chip. Only UNIX and Windows NT can exploit its special features. Therefore, the PRO doesn’t add much to a standard Windows ’95 PC/Workstation.


As an end-of-life kicker, this past spring, Intel juiced up the standard Pentium by adding special instructions sets to the CPU to perform calculations common in multimedia applications. Unfortunately, the PC software industry once again, hasn’t had time to catch up and re-program to take advantage of the MMX. Therefore only time will tell if it’s worth the extra cost. And, since business accounting systems have little or no need for sound or graphics, don’t look for our UNIX servers to sport MMX technology anytime soon.


The crowning jewel of this confusing naming game is this summers’ introduction of the Pentium II. All reports indicate this is a repackaged combination of the PentiumPRO and MMX technologies. Additionally, Intel has increased the clock speeds up to 266 megahertz with promises to go to 300! As you’ve guessed, your typical Windows ’95 Operating System won’t be able to take advantage of either the “PRO” features, nor likely the “MMX” features. Maybe Windows ‘9X will. So, other than the increased clock speed, don’t look for a generational improvement in performance with this as your PC/Workstation. On the downside, Intel has changed the physical dimensions of the chip, motherboard, and case they mount in. So a simple CPU exchange isn’t possible.

The chip though is great news for our UNIX based accounting system. We’re researching new PentiumII motherboards, and hope to introduce a new high-end entry by summers end.

MERCED (786)

Plans for a 64-bit CPU have been underway between Intel and Hewlett-Packard for longer than anyone can remember. Originally targeted for this summer, it appears to be spring of ’98 at the earliest before this next generation springs to life. All bets are off on what they’ll call it when it does actually surface. And you can count on needing a complete new version of Operating System (both for Windows and UNIX) to be able to use it.

We’re working hard to stay abreast of these developments, and translate all the techno mumbo-jumbo into layman’s terms for you. If you have any insight that you’d like to add to this picture, please give us a call or e-mail your opinions.